Albania,  Countries

Fleeing the United States? What’s With the Language Of Albania?

As many of you know, I am an American Expat living in Albania. I’ve mentioned in prior articles that I am learning Shqip, the language of Albania. It has been a slow process. There is a saying here, Avash, Avash, which means slowly, slowly and interestingly enough, that is actually an expression that has its origins in Turkey. As I began to learn the language, I was told by many, that there is no other language in the world that resembles Shqip. How true that is! I felt, with this series on Albania, that some information on the language would be a great addition to the prior articles.

Shqip the Language of Albania
Map of Shqip Dialects- Courtesy of By ArnoldPlaton

As I researched for this publication, I learned that Shqip is the official language in countries other than Albania and that it has different dialects based on the historical influences in the country. I’d love to share with you what I’ve learned and my hope is that you will find it as interesting as I have!

Different Dialects

Worldwide, it is estimated that there are roughly 7.5 million persons who speak Shqip, an Indo-European language, however, it is not even closely related to other languages! Wow- all those people who warned me about the language were right! Being the native language of Albania, it is the official language of Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Montenegro and is an officially recognized second language in Italy, Serbia, Croatia, and Romania. There are two main dialects, Gheg and Tosk with several secondary dialects falling within those two groups. Standard spoken Shqip is based on the Tosk Dialect.


As you can see from the map above, the dialect of Tosk is spoken in the South of Albania while Gheg is spoken in the North, with the areas being roughly divided by the Shkumbin River.

For the first several months that I lived in Albania, I was in an area in which Greek was a predominant second language. This worked for and against me in that since I was beginning my lessons in Shqip, if I didn’t understand something, I could fall back on my fluency in the Greek language. The problem with this was that it made me less motivated to learn the language of my newly adopted country and my skills became stalled.

Once I moved into another more northern community, one where Italian is the predominant second language, I found myself at a crossroads: continue to struggle and have my phone translator at the ready or get more serious about learning the language. I chose the latter, but honestly, still have my translator app ready in many situations. After 2 months of bi-weekly classes, I can shop, place my order in a restaurant, go to the salon, etc., with little difficulty. I understand what people are saying if they speak slowly but still struggle with my confidence level in speaking. Avash, Avash.

Shqip the Language of ALbania
The Shqip Alphabet

Shqip Alphabet

The Albanian language, Shqip, has a whopping 36 letters used in the alphabet with a few of them represented as double letters. Letters that resemble letters in the English language often have different sounds than I’m accustomed to. None of the letters are silent meaning that each letter in each syllable, in each word is pronounced. Sometimes, these are real tongue twisters! Unlike the English language, the verbs are conjugated depending on the tense in which it is being used change and also change depending on whether the noun is the subject of the sentence. Confused? No worries, I am too.

Another “quirk” of the language is numbers. In English, we say, for example, one hundred forty-one. However, in Shqip, you would say one hundred and forty and one (see below in phrases). And yet another rule of the language is when speaking of professions or occupations, if you are referring to a female, the profession always ends with an “e” (see below in phrases).

Exceptions to the Rules

Along with the 36 letters, and the different sounds, you also have the “exceptions” as just stated. It can be very challenging, and I believe you can see why. I am fortunate beyond words to have a very patient language teacher who is a native Albanian but lived in the United States as an ex-pat for a while. She understands the challenge of living in a foreign country and not having a command of the language while trying to shop, visit a doctor, or go to a restaurant. During this initial period, we are focusing our lessons on the language used in daily living.

As I have stated in previous articles, I don’t have a car and therefore frequent many of the same establishments. My frequent contacts understand that I am trying to learn the language and are not only patient but help me. Sometimes, the translator still comes out of my pocket- always at the ready! What’s ironic, however, is that these same people who are gracious enough to help me with their language are trying to learn English! With shopkeepers or restaurant servers, I have used my translator to ‘ thank them for their patience as I learn the language. The response is amazing from these very gracious people!

Pro Tip: How to Translate Shqip, the Language of Albania

Using the camera feature on Google for translating seems like a perfect solution when shopping, right? Not always. Here’s the real story…. Living in Europe, products are imported from all over the continent, just like in the United States. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons for the Schengen area. It created an environment just like the United States for transporting products from one country to another without the need for visas or passport control. Imagine the lines at the borders if transportation companies or people living in border cities but working in another country had to stop at passport control with each crossing!

So, how does this affect using a camera translator? Since products are from all over Europe, the labels are most often printed in the country’s language of origin. This means unless you visually recognize the language to identify what language you’re translating from, you’re dead in the water! Today as I shopped, I was looking for liquid dish soap with a grease cutter, similar to Dawn. The label wasn’t in Shqip, wasn’t in Greek or Italian (most common) but in Romanian! I see labels from Italy, Greece, Turkey, France, and now Romania! Always an adventure!

Here are some common phrases in Shqip, the Language of Albania:

Yes (indicated by nodding your head side to side): Po

No (indicated by nodding your head up and down): Jo

Thank you: Faleminderit

You’re welcome: Tu Lutem

Please: Ju Lutem

Hello: Pershendetje

How are you?: Si Jeni? or most often shortened to Si Je?

I’m well: Mire or shume mire (very well)

Road or street: rruga

Lawyer or Attorney: avokat

Female Lawyer or Attorney: avokate (and the “e” is pronounced)

And you?: Po Ti (yes po, also mean yes but in this case, it means and!)

Good Morning: Miremengjes

I would like an American coffee with milk, please Dua per te pire Amerikane kafe me qumesht, ju lutem.

Goodbye: Murapafshim

I will see you tomorrow at 1 in the afternoon: Shehemi nesser ne oren e nje pasdite.

One Hundred forty-one: Njeqind e dyzet e nje

Obviously, those are just a few examples. However,  I am also including a short video. It contains some beginner phrases just so you can hear the pronunciation of the words. As you watch and listen, notice how each letter in each word is spoken- nothing is silent.


Until next time, friends, remember, “To Travel is to Live!”



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